The National Palliative Care Research Center

Curing suffering through palliative care research.

Amoyal Pensak,

Nicole Amoyal Pensak, PhD

Assistant Professor

University of Colorado School of Medicine

Grant Year
Grant Term
Grant Type
Junior Faculty Career Development

Project Description
A Randomized Controlled Trial of Mobilized Psychoeducation and Skills Based Intervention (PEP-PAL) for Caregivers of Patients with Advanced Illness

We previously demonstrated the efficacy of a brief, in-person, one-on-one stress management intervention to reduce distress in caregivers of patients receiving allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplants (allo-HCST) in a randomized controlled trial. In addition, preliminary results from a qualitative development study suggest favorable results towards translating and enhancing the in-person stress management intervention and further developing a mobilized intervention to help caregivers manage distress (Pep-Pal). The aim of the current study is to conduct a pilot randomized controlled trial of the mobilized program, Pep-Pal, with sixty  caregivers (Total N = 60; 30 caregivers of patients receiving bone marrow transplant, 60 caregivers of patients enrolled in Phase I clinical oncology trials). Pep-Pal program consists of 9 sessions; Introduction to Stress, Mindfulness and Gratitude, How Thoughts Can Lead to Stress, Coping with Stress, Strategies for Maintaining Energy and Stamina, Coping with Uncertainty, Managing Changing Relationships and Communication, Getting Support, and Intimacy. Pep-pal will be delivered via a mobilized platform. Acceptability will be assessed through qualitative analyses of themes from exit interviews (N=6). Usability will be assessed through self-report assessment of usage of Pep-pal indicating length, frequency of sessions watched, and rankings of usefulness for each session. Feasibility will be assessed through frequency data regarding recruitment, enrollment, reasons for refusal, dropout, and backend data pulled from the website. Finally, preliminary estimates of efficacy will be assessed including the primary outcome, anxiety, and secondary outcomes including depression, stress, sexual functioning, and quality of life. Future directions for development and dissemination will be discussed.


Nicole Amoyal Pensak, PhD is an Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine. She conducts technological intervention development and dissemination research for patients with advanced illness and their caregivers. She completed an NIH/NIA-funded T32 research fellowship in Palliative Care and Aging in June 2016. Prior to that, she completed a post-doctoral fellowship in psychiatric oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital/ Harvard Medical School and a pre-doctoral internship in Behavioral Medicine at Yale School of Medicine. She received her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Rhode Island. As a 2016 NPCRC Career Development Award grantee, she will conduct a pilot randomized controlled trial of a mobilized intervention to help caregivers manage distress and to enhance intimacy. Her career goals are to develop and disseminate evidence-based interventions to improve quality of life and intimacy for patients with advanced disease and their caregivers.